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Fitness is in.

Or perhaps more accurately, the idea of fitness is in. One out of every five Americans are heading to the gym, or at least paying for a membership. Which puts the fitness industry in a pretty sweet spot: a largely unhealthy and overweight population is looking for ways to get in shape. Whether it’s pumping iron like our forefathers or the newest trampoline workout – there is an immense appetite for exercise.

Get Fit

The fitness industry is considered to include both fitness centers such as gyms as well as weight loss centers. Here we are concerned with the fitness side – businesses that primarily provide infrastructure such as space, equipment, and training in exchange for a membership fee. See here for our related discussion about the weight loss side of the coin.

Gyms used to be big box stores – lots of equipment for cardio and weight training, with personal training available, racquetball maybe, and a pool. And those are still around – but this is an industry that has seen variety become the spice of life. Traditional exercises are being transformed into specialties and new programs are being developed at a breakneck pace.

At the more traditional facilities, you get what you pay for

The more traditional gyms distinguish themselves at least in part through price point. High-end clubs offer an almost spa-like atmosphere for top-dollar; low-end offerings have just the essentials.

Consider Equinox on the high-end. The facilities are spotless and trendy and the amenities are nice enough that even rich folks are stealing the shampoo. They appeal to the ego with exquisite marketing campaigns of beautiful people doing incredible things.

Compare that with Crunch, an extremely low-cost, “everyman” gym. They market as an anti-gym – acknowledging, perhaps, that most Americans are far from the physical specimens seen on TV. Many of us need to feel comfortable enough to start from square one…every couple of months. Crunch sets their price point so low that it banks on people not bothering to cancel even when they stop going (and it works!).

Plenty of offerings lay in between these two extremes – something for every price level. If you’re considering a fitness franchise, keep in mind your local market – are consumers willing to pay up for a little luxury, or would they rather save money and shower at home?

Smaller niche gyms gather cult followings

Specialty training facilities are not new, of course. Think about boxing gyms or martial arts studios as some obvious examples. But now specialty fitness is all the rage, and things like boxing and karate are being brought to the masses with boxing and kickboxing franchises.

But that barely scratches the surface. Specialty fitness programs that focus on a particular style of exercise, piece of equipment or even philosophical approach are exploding across the country. Some focus on interval training, others on yoga or Pilates, on stationary bicycles (spin) or any number of other varieties – there is even a gym focused on rodeo training!

Membership often becomes a point of pride and a community develops around the exercise. Branded merchandise and cross-gym competitive events often become additional sources of revenue.

Read the full article here.

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